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Death By Television

Well, the charity lady wiped the diamonds from her eyes and said,
I keep saving all my pennies but the African dead stay dead
I sent them some elastoplast and dunlopillo bread,
Hey, hey, hey
But they sent me a letter saying
Send us Guns instead.

Ride the were wolf jump upon his hairy back
Ride the werewolf
Ride until your mind turns black
It's the twenty-first century werewolf
Twenty-first century werewolf
Twenty-first century werewolf
And it's coming this way

(Verse from Ride the Werewolf by Adrian Mitchell)

I feel like screaming, in fact, I think I did scream at the television, or at least shout at it. I can hardly bare to watch it at the moment. So much death, so much devastation, so much suffering, so much hypocrisy.

What makes the tsunami real? Because it happened or because it happened on TV?

The American and British Governments have murdered (or if you want to quibble, killed) over a million people in Iraq, over 400,000 of them children. Where were the TV cameras when that was happening? Where was the outpouring of concern? Where were the pledges for International aid? Where was the empathy? Somewhere else.

It's as if we are only allowed empathy when a disaster has natural causes. When a disaster is man-made other rules apply. Not that the hand of man is entirely absent from the current horror. Environmentalists had been warning for some time that unbound commercial activity in the region was storing up trouble for the future.

The future just arrived.

When is it going to arrive again?

2004 saw massive earthquakes, hurricanes, floods and the tsunami. Meanwhile, many Europeans are still waiting for snow. And meanwhile, business continues as usual. The world stock markets hardly registered that the tsunami had taken place. The United States and Australia both refuse to sign the Kyoto treaty on global warming. The treaty expires in 2012 and the United States is working to ensure no tougher treaty appears to replace it. To quote Adrian Mitchell again,

Peace was all I ever wanted.
It was too expensive

The country with the largest military budget in the world is acting unilaterally. It is pursuing policies that kill people and will kill more people. Is this a topic that should enter the classroom?

If you think it should then you might find a pair-work sheet I made useful. If you think I'm an idiot with a one track mind then you should take a look anyway. Perhaps the numbers might give you pause to think.

Here's the link.

The sheets are asymmetrical. They are different and after completing them students will have different sheets. Should we always try to make sure that everything in the classroom is balanced? Just what is balanced in the real world. Certainly the dominant economic system isn't.

I just wonder when we all stop playing follow my leader. As Herman Goerring said while sitting in a cell during the Nuremburg trial:

"Naturally, the common people don't want war, but after all, it is the leaders of a country who determine the policy, and it is always a simple matter to drag people along whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. This is easy. All you have to do is to tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in every country."

But for me, the lesson from the Tsunami is that people can act without leaders. At least, I hope that is the lesson. I hope it's not just a reaction to death by television. We'd better get more democracy and we'd better get it fast.

To conclude, Song in Space by Adrian Mitchell (how is it that we can put a man on the moon but we can't end misery?)

Song in Space

When man first flew beyond the sky
He looked back into the world's blue eye
Man said: What makes your eye so blue?
Earth said: The tears in the ocean do.
Why are the seas so full of tears?
Because I've wept so many thousand years.
Why do you weep as you dance through space?
Because I am the mother of the Human Race.

wise line

Postscript: In the past I've stayed off the ETJ message boards but I will get myself onto them. So if you would like to raise questions or comments I'll do my best to respond. Also if anyone would like to see different statements and numbers in the Death by Numbers pair-work sheet, give me the statement, the number, the source of the information and the statement to be replaced and I can change it.

January 2005
(Think Tank Column for ELT News )

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